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6 scooter dangers and how to address them

October 28, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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As scooters become more common in senior living environments, so do provider concerns related to safety and legal issues.

Cory Kallheim, JD, vice president of legal affairs for LeadingAge, said he fields questions about the mobility devices every day from members. The bottom line: “You can’t discriminate between those folks who need motorized devices [including motorized wheelchairs] versus those who don’t.”

What else can’t you do, and what can you do? Kallheim shared six potential sticking points with those attending a legal issues forum at the organization’s recent annual meeting:

  1. Don’t require residents with motorized vehicles to live on the first floor.
  2. Don’t charge a premium on rent for residents who want to have a scooter or motorized wheelchair in your community. “This does not mean that you can’t charge them for the damage that they create,” Kallheim said. “It’s a subtle distinction, but you can’t charge them upfront for having [a mobility device] and thinking that they’re going to cause more damage than they might actually do. But if they do cause damage…they’re responsible for that” as long as your contracts contain wording to that effect.
  3. Don’t require additional liability insurance from those who have motorized vehicles, “because you’re requiring that of them as one specific class versus everybody else.”
  4. Don’t request medical screenings or medical records of residents or prospective residents who wish to have motorized vehicles. “You can certainly ask if they need it and if they’ve gone through some training,” Kallheim said, and if an incident occurs, it’s acceptable for the community to evaluate a resident’s ability to operate the device. Some communities, he added, offer annual training to all residents to ensure that they know how to operate their motorized vehicles safely.
  5. Don’t restrict access to common areas. It is permissible, however, to require residents using motorized vehicles to obey community rules related to speed, right-of-way, who may use an individual resident’s device, and storage, parking and recharging of the device, Kallheim said.
  6. Don’t have a policy that bans motorized vehicles outright. “The whole idea is to have access for everybody to the community, so when you have a policy like that, that’s pretty discriminatory right off the bat,” Kallheim said. “So I would have just a general policy of allowing folks to have mobility devices.” Those communities that have policies banning the devices should try to honor the reasonable accommodation requests of residents asking to have such vehicles, he said. “You have to take each request as it comes,” he said.

As always, seek counsel regarding your specific situation.



We had a few years of allowing scooters in the building. We actually had rooms dedicated to the parking of them. It was an education for us.

First, if you think the operator will control the speed, they will; it will always be on full, even though the reaction time degrades as we get older. This is like other "rules." Forget it; they will not be obeyed enough to protect the other residents from injury. If "you" allow it, then "you" will be liable.

Second, we need to differentiate between scooter and power chair. Scooters are meant for higher-speed travel outside. Power chairs are lower speed meant for inside.

We no longer allow scooters inside the building (four years now). We do allow power chairs anywhere. We have a spot in the underground parking for the scooters. People use the power chairs or walkers to get to the scooters. This does not discriminate; no one is allowed to have a scooter in the building, and everyone is allowed to have a power chair on any floor. Honestly, we have only a couple of people that have both. We have many people with scooters; there are about 30 at the moment in the scooter room, plus several power chairs, for 140 residents.

We had very dangerous situations before, with people being hit and hurt in the hallways with scooters, extensive damage to walls, etc. Since we outlawed them in the building, we have had no complaints and very minor damage with the power chairs to common areas and suites.

This makes points one through four redundant and sort of goes around the last two points.

Thank you for reading our article and for sharing your community's experience with motorized devices. The comments made in this presentation were made to clarify matters about which some providers might have questions, because this topic seems to be of great interest and of some confusion. It is always recommended that individual providers consult with their own legal advisers to ensure that they are conducting themselves in a way that best serves all parties' interests and meets local, state and national requirements. Thanks again!